Early College High School a possibility

Published on Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:36 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The opening of an Early College High School for Tyler ISD students is under discussion, and district board members plan to discuss the issue today.

This program, which would open in fall 2015, would target first-generation college students and/or those who are at-risk of dropping out, and enable them to earn college credit up to an associate’s degree while still in high school.

TISD has explored the idea of early college high schools for several years, having discussed it during board meetings, visited campuses that had the programs and brought up the idea during 2011’s long-range planning process.

However, this time the district has set a public discussion about the issue and set a timetable for its possible opening.

TISD spokeswoman Dawn Parnell said the initiative is a part of the school district’s efforts to create a college-going culture.

“These campuses are aimed at students who are underserved,” she wrote in an email.

This would include first-generation college students as well as those who come from low-income families or are minorities.

The Texas Education Agency defines an Early College High School as an innovative high school located on or close to a college campus that allows “students least likely to attend college an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and 60 college credit hours,” according to TISD.

The schools provide dual credit, meaning college and high school credit simultaneously, at no cost to students; offer challenging instruction and accelerated and fast-paced courses; provide academic and social support to encourage a student’s success; and increase college readiness and reduce barriers to college access, according to TISD.

Dr. Juan E. Mej■a, the Tyler Junior College vice president for student affairs, said there are several early college high school models.

These include those on existing college campuses; those that are stand-alone campuses; and those that are schools within schools where one wing or area of a campus is set apart for the early college high school.

Ms. Parnell said TISD is considering a hybrid of several models in which students would be at a stand-alone campus their freshman and sophomore years of high school and on the college campus their junior and senior years.

A 2009 study completed by the American Institutes for Research shows about 88 percent of students who attend these schools enroll in college after high school; these students have a high expectation to finish a four-year postsecondary degree; and these students graduate from high school with an average of a semester to one year’s worth of college credit, among other accomplishments.

As part of its research into this program, TISD staff and board members have attended the national Early College High School conference; visited Early College High School campuses around the state; conducted initial conversations with Tyler Junior College; and reviewed different Early College High School models, according to district information.

TISD has to apply to the Texas Education Agency by November to be on track to open an Early College High School in fall 2015.

Ms. Parnell said the district administration likely will bring a recommendation forward to the board this spring regarding which early college high school model they would like.

The idea would be to start with 75 to 100 freshmen/sophomores and have a maximum of 300 students from ninth through 12th grades in the program.

The TISD board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today in the Dr. Jack L. Davidson Conference Center in the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd. The board is scheduled to meet in closed session at 6 p.m.; and at 5 p.m. the board will have a reception honoring former trustee Brad Spradlin, who resigned in December after serving 11 years on the board.